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Spiceworks with VMware

I’m a big fan of free… free as in beer and free as in speech. Sometimes that even means free as in ad-supported. NOT Adware-supported, mind you, but ad-supported free software runs second in my book to truly free open-source software. Anyone remember Pointcast? Yeah, it was a bandwidth hog in an analog age, but I LOVED it. Knowing that, you can imagine how many of the F/OSS systems management products I’ve tried. The answer is: Enough to speak on the subject at Data Center Decisions, if not speak well (hey, first time on that end of the podium… but thats another story). To get back on track, I even liked a lot of them too, Nagios, Zenoss, Hyperic, and even Groundworks new version (though Andrew Kutz knows how much I loathed their previous version from our talks at Data Center Decisions, I’ve since changed my tune) made my short list on the OSS side.

What I was looking for:

  • The ability to scan the network at set intervals, creating and maintaining a detailed scan-based inventory.
  • WMI-based tools to get detailed software, services, and other information from desktops and Windows servers.
  • An SMTP- and/or SMS-aware alerting system that would email and/or text my phone when the poo hit the fan.
  • Rudimentary ticketing so that when one of those alerts come, I have a system to manage them by.
  • The ability to monitor VMware virtual machines, and manage sprawl.

Eventually I settled on using Spiceworks. It’s free, but not Open Source. There’s no Linux version, which would normally kill me because I don’t like paying Microsoft for an operating system when I’m trying to use something free, but the resource useage is low enough that after testing I put it on an already existing file server. They all did this, but the simplest to set-up and use was another application, Spiceworks. It was quick, simple, and does everything I want. The helpdesk system in 1.5 is simple enough that I may migrate from our current software over to it. Jury’s still out on that, since the helpdesk Web portal piece trusts user input (by typing in your email address) about identity, rather than authenticating, and I’m not sure about HIPAA implications. It’s not a medical system, but it could be misused to put in fake tickets about medical systems, etc. etc. Anyway, I looked over what the ad-supported system sends out, what the pricacy policy is, and decided it was worth using since it doesn’t compromise any private data, and the ads are inobtrusive. Ok, long story short… it does a nice job identifying hardware, including virtual machines. Some short screen caps follow:

This is a virtual machine sitting on VMware Server 1.0.2. I use VS on desktops for some of our legacy apps that need (gasp) Win98, so keeping tabs on who’s making more VMs and sucking up their resources (not to mention adding to sprawl) is key. People like to play, and it’s not always as easy to lock them down as you would like. VMware-based hardware shows up like real hardware if you click the configuration tab (I won’t post the image here, at least until I edit out some serial numbers and other proprietary stuff), and the details go much further into the machine’s info. It also manages linux boxes (granted, without WMI, not as much info is gleaned, but there’s still lots of useful data.

Here’s the really useful part – regular scans, plus the ability to pick up virtual machines like they were any other machine. IOW – the ability to control virtual machine sprawl and manage documentation for vms.

Next up, once I’m done playing with Virtual Iron and have some nice Xen VMs, is to try Spiceworks out and see how it detects and documents Xen-based virtual machines. Should be a nice synergy of tests.

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Spiceworks is now 3.6, it is very much inproved from the version in 2007 and has better support for VMware and Mac and Linux. With a huge community now behind spiceworks its getting better quickly Spiceworks is a free “everything IT” tool that delivers nearly everything an IT pro needs to simplify your job. Designed for small- and medium-sized businesses, Spiceworks single, easy-to-use interface combines network inventory, monitoring, troubleshooting and reporting with an easy to use help desk. And, it connects you with a community of over half-a-million other IT pros to share ideas, best practices and product recommendations, and in the spirit of helping each other solve problems and make the IT day easier. And, the best part? It's free, thanks to top technology vendors that sponsor Spiceworks! Pop along to for more info :)